Learning about sciatica therapy requires learning about sciatica. When you understand the causes of sciatica, and how it occurs, it becomes easier to understand sciatica therapy. It also makes it easier to monitor your pain relief and response to therapy.
”sciatica is a signal”
Sciatica itself is not a disease, it is a symptom. When you're having sciatica is a signal that something is irritating part of the sciatic nerve. Your sciatica may be from pressure, or it may be from inflammation, but when you are having sciatica something is bothering the sciatic nerve.
A person usually describes sciatica as a deep ache, in the buttock or thigh, similar to a toothache. This can occur on one or both sides, and there may be associated weakness.
”depends on how and where the nerve is being irritated”
You may also have numbness and tingling, or a needles and pins sensation, in your lower leg or, in your foot and toes. Depending on how the nerve is being irritated, you may have other strange sensations.
You may get electrical jolts down into your leg, or a buzzing sensation in your leg, similar to a pager. It all depends on how and where the nerve is being irritated.
”the largest nerve in the body”
The sciatic nerve is formed by the joining of several nerve roots after they leave the spinal canal. It provides sensation, and control of the muscles, in the buttock, thigh, and leg.
The sciatic nerve is the largest nerve in the body and runs through the buttock and thigh. It then branches into the tibial and common peroneal nerves, which in turn, divide into the nerves of the lower leg.
”pain can be felt along the entire length of the nerve”
Whenever this nerve is irritated, from compression or other causes, pain can be felt along the entire length of the nerve. Sciatica can radiate pain up into the low back and down through the buttock and thigh, and when the pain is severe, it may radiate into the lower leg and foot.
”stenosis can cause sciatica”
Spinal stenosis can cause sciatica when the bone spurs from arthritis, and overgrown ligaments, narrow the space for the nerves as they exit the lumbar spine.
If they put pressure on any of the nerve roots that make up the sciatic nerve it will cause the pain of sciatica.
”underneath the piriformis muscle”
After the sciatic nerve exits the pelvis it lies between the large muscles of the buttock and thigh, and it passes underneath the piriformis muscle. When this muscle becomes short and tight it can put pressure on the sciatic nerve.
This may occur when athletes fail to stretch and warm up properly causing the piriformis muscle to spasm. This can also develop during periods of inactivity such as when you are stuck in bed with an injury or from spending too much time on the couch watching TV.
”If the herniated disc puts pressure... ”
A herniated intervertebral disc can put pressure on nerve roots when the outer ring bulges or herniates forcing the soft center into the space for the nerves.
If the herniated disc puts pressure on one of the nerve roots that make up the sciatic nerve, it will cause the pain of sciatica along with other possible symptoms.
”Sciatica therapies fall into two broad categories... ”
Sciatica therapy falls into two broad categories, sciatica therapy that is designed to address specific problems, and sciatica therapy that is used for more general pain management. There are many different appliances and back pain machines available to accomplish these goals.
”traction is used to address a specific problem and”
Lumbar traction is used to address a specific problem, for example, pressure on the nerves, within the spinal canal, or where they exit the spinal canal. There are a number of devices and techniques that have been devised to address this problem.
Traction tables are used with weight attached to a harness that fits around your pelvis. The weight applies traction or stretch to the lumbar spine. These have been used for years to rehabilitate a herniated disk or reduce a bulging disk.
”uses the weight of your body”
< Inversion tables > are another technique that is used to accomplish the same thing. On an inversion table your ankles and feet are held while the table is slowly rotated into a head down position.
This uses the weight of your body to apply traction to the lumbar spine. Home units are available, and these are often a good choice, because of the ease of use and onetime cost.
”is controlled by computers”
Spinal decompression is a more modern technique of applying traction to the lumbar spine. This technique is currently being used, with remarkable success, in many pain management centers.
They have a harness that fits around your pelvis then traction is applied in a gentle pulsatile rhythm, which is controlled by computers. Over time the pressure slowly increases and the spine is slowly distracted making more room for the nerves.
Lumbar traction can be very effective for the right person with the right problem. It can effectively relieve the pressure on nerves and treat sciatica.
”Stretching and strengthening exercises”
Stretching and strengthening exercises can also be very effective at relieving sciatica, when the sciatica is caused by, poor posture, muscle deconditioning, or muscle imbalance.
Yoga is an ancient practice that uses breathing techniques, meditation, and exercises to bring health to the body, mind, and spirit. As a sciatica therapy, it can strengthen lower back muscles, stretched tight ligaments, and improve your posture.
Pilates are a more modern series of exercises and stretches that focus on strengthening your core muscles and stretch tight muscles. Pilates are a rigorous series of exercises that may increase sciatica if not done correctly. It is important that you learn correct techniques from a qualified instructor.
”Tai Chi... ”
Tai Chi is a Chinese martial art that has been practiced for centuries. It uses rhythmic breathing and graceful flowing movements to improve muscle strength, balance, and posture. Tai Chi is also credited with clearing the mind and relieving stress, which may help your sciatica as well.
”aerobic exercise can be great sciatica therapy”
Depending on the severity of your sciatica, aerobic exercise can be great sciatica therapy, if your pain will allow it. It may take some time, investigating different types of exercise, to find something you can do. Everyone should be able to find some form of aerobic exercise that they can do.
Aerobic activity, anything that raises your heart rate, stimulates the endorphins that are your own natural painkillers. It also help you manage your weight, it improves your general conditioning, and it makes you feel better.
”Brisk walking... ”
Brisk walking is great exercise. If walking is difficult for you because of sciatica or other problems find something else that you can do to raise your heart rate. If your knees or hips bother you, an elliptical machine, can give you a good low impact workout.
Cycling is also a good alternative. A stationary bicycle or riding a bicycle on the street is excellent exercise. If you ride on the street be safe and look out for cars. Many police departments have classes on bicycle safety.
A very back friendly form of bicycling is recumbent cycling. On recumbent bicycle you reclining in a very comfortable position while peddling with your legs. These are available in both stationary styles and recumbent bicycles that you ride on the street.
”swimming or water aerobics”
Another great form of aerobic conditioning is swimming or water aerobics. This can be good for people with knee or hip pain, because some of your weight is held up by the water, reducing the pressure on your joints.
”more invasive form of sciatica therapy”
Another more invasive form of sciatica therapy is steroid injections. Steroids can sometimes be used to reduce inflammation and swelling which can sometimes relieve pressure on the nerve.
Epidural steroids are sometimes used in cases of spinal stenosis when the pressure is thought to be caused by the inflammation of arthritis. The effectiveness of these injections is very variable.
Sometimes people get good relief for a few weeks or a few months before their pain returns. In other cases, the relief lasts for months or even years, and some people never Feinstein has been a D have to have it repeated. Along with these successes, there are people, who get no relief at all.
”injections for piriformis syndrome”
Steroid injections for piriformis syndrome are done and some centers report high rates of success for perisciatic injections. This sciatica therapy is controversial in some circles and not widely performed.
Other types of general pain management techniques that are effective sciatica therapy include meditation, and self hypnosis.
Meditation uses breathing techniques and focused concentration to control your thoughts and take them away from the pain. Many studies have shown this to be a successful way of managing pain in certain groups of people.
Meditation requires that you be open minded and it also requires significant powers of concentration. Practitioners focus on calming thoughts and releasing the pain from their minds.
Self hypnosis also requires strong powers of concentration and self control. Using the power to hypnosis use separate yourself from your body and the pain. Then you can see the pain, from an objective point of view, which makes it easier to tolerate.
”Not all of these approaches will work for everyone...”
There are many different types of sciatica therapy, some will be effective only in certain cases, and others are useful for managing any type of pain.
If you know what is causing your pain, a sciatica therapy directed at the cause, may be the most effective for you. You may also benefit from some of the more general techniques as well.
Not all of these approaches will work for everyone, but I know you can find something in here that will work for you.